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What I want to talk about isn’t exactly a new subject. Lots of people have written about it. I guess it’s just something that hasn’t caught attention in mainstream media.

And maybe this is a rather serious topic to start the semester off with, but it’s something I care about. It’s something I think all of us should care about. And the way in which people shy away from it and refuse to confront is precisely why I feel called to do so.

So let’s talk about period shaming.  

Men and women have been instilling the idea that the topic of menstruation is impure, wrong, and even crass into the minds of young women for ages. Many say it is better to be bashful, small, quiet, and afraid about the topic. And for some apparent reason, it’s polite to be embarrassed. 

I think it is time we heal this war on womanhood by teaching our sisters, mothers, and daughters a different message. 

It is disrespectful to be ashamed. 

It is a crime against our history as women to adhere to the narrative taught by many descendants of men who exiled women to menstruation huts because they thought them to be too unclean to be near. 

And that’s only one example. 

On the contrary, I find it curious how nobody talks about the community of women inside of tents who gathered around a bleeding woman while teaching her the beauty of renewal and the blessings that come with the pain. Nobody talks about how cycles were celebrated by our sisters, instead of ignored or condemned. 

But moving on…

Over winter break I was at Albertsons. I needed tampons and pads as I had gotten my period unexpectedly. I am irregular, as I often struggle with having regular periods due to emotional stress. I was with my boyfriend and I said, “So, I need to grab some tampons and probably some painkillers. I’m having pretty bad cramps.” All of a sudden he said, “Shhh!” and urged me to be quiet. I looked at him, surprised by his reaction. He said, “Somebody could hear you.” 

Look. He’s a great guy. A wonderful guy. But I realized even he had been raised into this ugly idea that a menstrual cycle is embarrassing, gross, and something to hide. And this isn’t the only encounter I’ve experienced concerning this topic. Older women in my family have been shielded away from even being asked if there are feminine products in the house. When I was a teenager I remember feeling like every time I bought a pad or a tampon box from the store, I had to request a darker bag to hide them so that nobody would know what I had bought. I remember having my eyes downcast and my hair covering my face as I placed the items onto the checkout counter-belt. I remember purposely looking for female cashiers. 

And if I ever dropped a tampon out of my bag in class or in any public space, the reaction was always the same. Gasps. Snickers. Laughter. 

Maybe I could deal with that level of immaturity as a 13-year-old. But as a nearly 25-year-old woman, I say enough is enough– for all of us. 

How small must we make ourselves to lower our voices when we talk about a time that is completely natural? It’s a time that used to bring us together as women. How hateful must we be towards ourselves and towards each other to show shame where we should show pride. We’re expected to be quiet when there is no reason to be and to feel dirty when we should feel powerful.

Are we not ashamed of being ashamed? 

I’m almost 25 years old and I will not hide behind my hair or the traditional belief that a period is a negative, disturbing thing we must protect others from being exposed to. I’m not embarrassed. I bleed a whole lot, nearly every month, and I will bleed quite a lot until I’m around the age of 60 years old. So? I’m a cisgender woman who has a period. If you’re cringing right now as you read this article, then I’m talking to you. Question your reactions. Question if they are truly rational. 

Unlike the problem of period shaming, there is an unspoken problem of shaming a woman who does not have a period. This could be for medical reasons, because they are transgender, or due to another circumstance. Who in the world decided that there is a proper, specific way to be a woman? 

Who decided that we should tear each other apart and decide what is acceptable in terms of womanhood? Who decided which parts we reject and which parts we embrace? 

I think as young people in college and out in the world, we’re old enough to be more mature about anatomy, gender, sexuality, sex, reproductive topics, etc. Not only that, but don’t we want to try to create a world where none of us feel like we have to hide? I think period shaming is incredibly outdated and immature. I think shaming in general is outdated and immature. 

So put simply and pardon my French-

Can we just grow the F*** up? 

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Sarah Laver

UC Berkeley '22

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